One story of Schultz’s cheapness is famous among his former staff. The Sonics’ previous owner, Barry Ackerley, had bought holiday gifts each year for the folks in the front office. When Schultz’s group took over, the custom died. Rightly or wrongly, some of the employees groused that no gesture had been made to them. According to an employee at the time, another of the team’s new owners, Richard Tait, the co-creator of Cranium, heard about the complaints and subsequently gave out copies of his popular board game. Not to be outdone, Schultz followed suit. He gave each employee a Starbucks gift card. One member of the staff—who wasn’t a Starbucks regular—decided to use his card to get some snacks. When he went to pay for his roughly five dollars’ worth of food, he asked how much money remained on the card.
“Well, you owe me money,” the cashier said.
The Sonics employee asked how much had been on the card to begin with.
“$3.50,” the barista replied.
At the time, we would later learn, ordinary customers couldn’t buy a Starbucks card with a value of less than $5. These were custom $3.50 gift cards.
(It would happen again. It became something of franchise lore that when the Storm won the WNBA title in 2004, the players—the first team to win any sort of championship for Seattle since the 1978-79 Sonics—also got cards that could barely cover a Starbucks coffee).